Declining feelings of social cohesion have been linked to lower rates of political and civic participation, volunteering and trust in public institutions.
Despite leaps in connectivity, almost 700 000 people in Norway, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, suffer from loneliness, and similar findings are reported in other western countries.
In the UK, the cost of loneliness to employers, based on productivity loss and turnover, is estimated at £2,5 billion. Despite drastic changes to the way people live, move and work, new developments largely cater to what people traditionally have wanted and city planners are slow to catch up with new patterns of living.
For example, the rate of self-employment is growing (up to 40 % in the US), but tax and labour policies, and employment practices, are slower to catch up. Faith in the importance of democracy is falling in the west, and many trace this to a decline in trust in politicians, government, institutions and news media, as well as their local communities.
To counter the rising acceptance of populist, authoritarian rule – evidenced from Trump to Órban – we need to build neighbourhoods with strong social bonds, ensuring cohesion, communication and mutual trust.
The challenge: How might we address the increasing isolation and fragmentation in today's communities that threaten social stability and cohesion?